Living with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) involves taking prescription medication in order to help remain focused and stay balanced. However, one may wonder if beginning prescription stimulants often at such a young age has any effect on drug-seeking behaviors as the child gets older.
Do people with ADHD have a greater risk of trying dangerous illicit drugs such as heroin? We at Asheville Detox decided to dig deep into this question in order to provide a greater understanding to those who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
What Is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?
One of the most prevalent mental disorders affecting children and adults, ADHD is marked by an inability to stay focused, being hyperactive, and acting impulsively. Children that have ADHD have trouble staying still for long periods of time and have short attention spans. While this is common with young children, the difference is that they are more hyperactive and inattentive than normal for their age. This causes problems at home and at school. Here are a few common symptoms of ADHD to look out for:
- Doesn’t seem to be paying attention when you are speaking to them
- Has difficulty staying focused on tasks or activities such as during long reading or lectures
- Doesn’t pay close attention to details and makes careless mistakes
- Has difficulty staying organized and misses deadlines
- Doesn’t like tasks that require ongoing mental effort
- Doesn’t take much to distract them
Does Having ADHD Increase the Risks of Heroin Abuse?
The short answer is yes, having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder does increase the risk that a child is going to smoke, drink, or use drugs, heroin included. In fact, they experiment with all three earlier than children who don’t have ADHD. Their risk for developing a substance use disorder is greater. With that being said, just because a child has ADHD does not necessarily mean that they will have issues with heroin or other drugs as a teen.
Logically, you may be wondering why a child that has ADHD is more likely to get involved with drugs and alcohol as a teen. There are several theories behind this. The first is that there is a simple genetic link between the condition and the tendency. Secondly, the behaviors that go along with ADHD such as impulsivity, poor judgment, and school troubles may increase the risk. Lastly, it is suspected that individuals with ADHD may use drugs like heroin to try and self-medicate.
Does ADHD Medication Have an Effect on Whether or Not a Child Ends Up Using Heroin or Other Drugs?
In the past, some clinicians have feared that giving prescription stimulants to children such as Ritalin, Dexedrine or Adderall may cause them to take illicit drugs in the future. However, two studies conducted by the National Institute of Drug Abuse indicate the contrary.
One study showed that children who were given medication for their ADHD were not as likely to become substance abusers, compared to children with ADHD who were unmedicated, during 4 years of follow-up. The second study showed that giving ADHD medication to adult cocaine abusers with ADHD decreased their use of cocaine.
How Can Parents Be Proactive About Their Child’s Potential for Drug Abuse?
- Watch for any changes in your child’s behavior, even if you suspect it is only due to their ADHD.
- Talk to your teen about their behavior, outlining what is safe and acceptable. Set a positive example by not abusing any of the substances that you want your teen so desperately to stay away from.
- Take a good look at your teen’s friends. If they are hanging out with questionable people, they may already be exposed to drugs.
- Make sure that your child understands how important it is that they take their medication, exactly as prescribed to them. Be sure to keep an eye on their ADHD meds as prescription drug abusers might like to get their hands on them. Make it clear that they should never give their medicine out to anyone else.
What Are the Signs of Heroin Abuse?
Just like all types of drugs, there are a few defining physical indicators that may show that your teen is using heroin. These characteristics tend to stand out from their usual appearance.
Though heroin can be taken a few different ways, the most common is to inject it intravenously using a syringe. Most of the time, this is done in the forearm area. To hide the points of entry, you may notice that your teen is always wearing long sleeve shirts, no matter the weather.
Other noticeable signs of heroin use include:
- Dry mouth
- Breaths that are quick and shallow
- Small pupils, no matter what lighting is present
- Periods of being extremely alert, followed by being completely exhausted
There are also several health and behavioral symptoms of using heroin. You may notice a decline in their overall well-being. You also may notice unexplained changes in the way they behave on a daily basis. Unexplained weight loss, a runny nose without any sickness, visible needle entry points and bruises or cuts from skin picking may all be noticed. You may also notice that their behavior has become rather deceptive and negative lately. Here are a few other issues you may notice:
- They avoid looking at you in the eyes
- Their speech is slurred
- They aren’t doing well in school
- They are stealing or borrowing money from you
- They are unmotivated
- They frequently overreact or become hostile
Get Help for Heroin Abuse at Asheville Detox
If you or your child has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and you suspect they might be using heroin, the time to get help is now. We at Asheville Detox employ therapists who are experts in helping others to recover who have a dual diagnosis such as ADHD with heroin addiction. Allow our team of dedicated professionals to answer any questions you might have by contacting us today.